"The good of the grace of one soul is greater than the good of the nature of the whole universe"
- St Thomas Aquinas Ia IIa, q.24, a. 3, ad 2

— A Commentary on the Third Part of St Thomas' Theological Summa

by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.


Third Article: Whether In Christ There Was Faith

The general opinion of theologians is that Christ did not have faith. Such is the opinion of St. Thomas.

The reason given in the counterargument does not absolutely prove this assertion, for the words of Peter quoted here, namely, "Thou knowest all things,"[880] were spoken after Christ's resurrection. Hence these words prove to some extent that at least after the resurrection Jesus did not have faith concerning mysteries in the strict sense, but the beatific vision.

The body of the article presupposes what must be proved farther on,[881] namely, that Christ from the first moment of His conception completely saw God in His essence. But the clear vision of God excludes the notion of faith, which is of things not seen.

In other words, a virtue cannot be in a subject to whom its primary act is derogatory. But the primary act of faith refers to God not seen. Therefore Christ could not have had faith, since from the moment of His conception He clearly saw God in His essence. This is the common opinion among theologians. No theologian holds that an act of faith is simultaneously compatible with the beatific vision, because the scriptural text of St. Paul is clear on this point: "Faith[882]... is the evidence of things that appear not." Durandus thinks that the habit of faith, however, if not its act, can remain in the blessed. Scotus holds this to be possible, but useless. St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure are of the opinion that the habit of faith cannot co-exist with the beatific vision. Thus St. Thomas says: "The object of faith is a divine thing not seen. But the habit of virtue... takes its species from the object. Hence, if we deny that the divine thing was not seen, we exclude the very essence of faith."[883]

At least the permanence of the beatific vision excludes both act and habit of faith. The beatific vision as a transient act, which St. Augustine and St. Thomas think St. Paul had on this earth, excludes the act of faith concerning this object, but not the habit of faith.

Reply to first objection. The moral virtues, although they are inferior to faith, were and are always in Christ because they imply no defect as regards their subject matter.[884]

Reply to second objection. St. Thomas does not teach that Christ had the merit of faith, but He had what constitutes the reward of our faith, which is perfect obedience to the loving commands of God.

But Christ was faithful to His promises, and this is sometimes called faith in Sacred Scripture.[885] Thus the prophet says of the Messias: "Faith shall be the girdle of His loins."[886]

Therefore the maximum of faith that any intellectual creature had was the theological faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for her faith was proportionate to her plenitude of grace. From this we conclude how sublime must have been the acts of faith and hope made by the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially on Mount Calvary, not in the least doubting that her Son, who seemed to be conquered, was the Son of God, the conqueror of the devil and sin, and the proximate victor of death.

Fourth Article: Whether In Christ There Was Hope

State of the question. There is some difficulty, for the Psalmist, speaking in the person of Christ, says: "In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped."[887] Moreover, Christ awaited or hoped for the glorification of His body and the building up of His mystical body.

Conclusion. St. Thomas, with whom the majority of theologians agree, maintains that Christ did not have the virtue of hope but had a certain act of hope or rather of desire concerning things He did not yet possess.

Scriptural proof. St. Paul says: "What a man seeth, why doth he hope for?"[888] But Christ did not have faith, as was said above,[889] because from the beginning (of the hypostatic union) He enjoyed the vision of the divine essence. Therefore, too, He did not have the virtue of hope.

Theological proof. The reason for this proof is taken from the formal or primary object of hope, for hope, considered as a theological virtue, has God Himself as its primary object, whose fruition is expected. But Christ from the beginning of His conception had the complete fruition of the divine essence, as will be stated farther on.[890] Therefore He did not have the theological virtue of hope.

The principle of the preceding article applies equally here, namely, a virtue cannot be in a subject to whom its primary act is derogatory.

However, at the end of the argumentative part of this article, St. Thomas admits that Christ had a certain act of hope or rather of desire as regards some things, so that He could expect the glorification of His body and the building up of the Church. Thus the Psalmist, speaking in the person of Christ, says: "In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped."[891] But these things do not constitute the primary object of the theological virtue of hope, and thus it remains true that Christ did not have this theological virtue of hope.

Therefore of all intellectual creatures, the hope of the Blessed Virgin Mary was the most sublime especially on Mount Calvary, when all the apostles, with the exception of St. John, did not have the courage to witness the death of Christ. Hence it is said of her: "Grant that I may carry the cross of Christ."[892]

First doubt. To what virtue must we attribute this act of desire in Christ for the glorification of His body and the building up of the Church?

Reply. This act must be attributed to the virtue of charity, as its secondary act, whereby Christ loved Himself and the Church, for God's sake, as the Evangelist says: "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends."[893]

Thus the love of concupiscence by which we desire eternal life for the glory of God, is attributed to us as a secondary act of charity.

Second doubt. Was there penance as a virtue in Christ?

Reply. There was no penance, as a virtue, in Christ, because it implies in the strict sense sorrow for one's own sins. But Christ was impeccable, as will be explained farther on. The Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office forbade such invocations as: "Heart of Jesus, penitent for us, Jesus penitent, Jesus penitent for us."[894]

The truth of this reply is clearly established since it agrees with the generally accepted teaching of St. Thomas, which declares that penance is a special virtue that is distinct not only from the virtue of religion, but also from the virtue of vindictive justice and of all the other virtues.[895]

Thus the primary and specific act of penance is sorrow for one's own sins with the motive of amendment, and the intention of performing salutary acts in satisfaction for one's past offenses.

But a virtue cannot be in a subject to whom its primary act is intrinsically repugnant. But the act of penance is intrinsically repugnant to Christ's human nature, because it was united to the Word.[896] But Christ had a perfect detestation for sin inasmuch as it is an offense against God, arising from the intensity of His love for God offended and for souls that are dead to God through mortal sin.

Fifth Article: Whether In Christ There Were The Gifts

State of the question. The difficulty is that gifts are given to help the virtues. But the virtues were most perfect in Christ. Therefore He did not need this help.

Moreover, Christ had already on this earth the contemplation of heaven as explained farther on. But the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding seem to belong to contemplation in this life, and apparently these are useless in a soul that already enjoys the beatific vision.

Conclusion. It is commonly admitted, however, that the soul of Christ had these gifts in a pre-eminent degree.

Gonet maintains that this conclusion is a certainty of the faith, because of the text of Isaias quoted in the proof.

Scriptural proof. The prophet says: "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him: the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness. And He shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord."[897]

Instead of the words, "the spirit of knowledge and of godliness," the Hebrew text reads, "the spirit of knowledge and of fear." Thus fear is mentioned twice. The Greek version and the Vulgate give "godliness," which is about the same in meaning as reverential godliness. The Old Testament does not distinguish so clearly between. godliness and fear as the New Testament does, which is not the law of fear, but of love.[898]

The Fathers and Scholastics are generally agreed that this text concerns Christ's human nature.

Theological proof. Although it has been revealed that Christ had gifts and still has them, this assertion can also be proved from higher revealed principles, namely, from the definition of gifts. St. Thomas says in this article: "The gifts, properly, are certain perfections of the soul's powers, inasmuch as they have a natural aptitude to be moved by the Holy Ghost," according to St. Luke, who says: "And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert." Hence it is manifest that the gifts were in Christ in a pre-eminent degree.

The thesis is confirmed by the fact that the gifts of the Holy Ghost follow from habitual grace and are connected with charity, as St. Thomas teaches.[899] But Christ had habitual grace in the most perfect manner and the highest degree of charity. Therefore He also had pre-eminently the gifts.

The thesis is also confirmed from the solution of the objections.

Reply to first objection. It points out that as a man, however perfect he may be, needs to be helped by God, so also, no matter how perfect the virtues are, they need to be helped by the gifts, which perfect the powers of the soul, inasmuch as these are not controlled by reason illumined by faith, but by the Holy Spirit. This reply confirms the teaching of St. Thomas as set forth in a previous passage[900] where he shows that the infused virtues, even the highest degree, are specifically distinct from the gifts as regards their formal object quo or their rule or motive;[901] for to be ruled by right reason even though illumined by the light of faith differs from being ruled by the Holy Spirit, which means to be ruled by His special inspiration, which transcends the discursive process of reasoning. Thus there is a manifest difference between being ruled by infused prudence, which proceeds from living faith, and being ruled by the gift of counsel.

Reply to third objection. It states that the gifts were not useless in Christ, for He also had earthly knowledge, as will be stated farther on;[902] for Christ was both wayfarer and comprehensor. He was comprehensor as regards the higher part of the soul, and wayfarer inasmuch as His soul still was passible and His body passible and mortal, so that He looked forward to beatitude in all those things which were wanting to Him of beatitude. Moreover, as explained elsewhere,[903] the gifts remain in heaven.

As stated in this last citation, this doctrine of the permanence of the gifts in heaven is affirmed by St. Ambrose,[904] and the reason is that the gifts of the Holy Spirit perfect the human mind to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit, which is especially the case in heaven. But in heaven, evil and temptation being no more, by the gifts of the Holy Spirit we are perfected in good, not entirely as regards the same material object but the gifts will preserve in us intact the same formal objects both quo and quod of the virtues by which latter they are specified; for as theologians in heaven will see the object of theology, either in the Word if in this life they studied it out of love for God, or outside the Word; so also all the blessed in heaven will receive special inspirations from the Holy Spirit to know something special by means of experimental knowledge, according as it is connaturally related to divine things, for instance, to know for what wayfarers they must especially pray. The beatific vision precedes beatific love, whereas the knowledge obtained by the gifts follows this love. Finally, there is neither succession in knowledge nor acquisition of anything new, whereas by the gifts it is possible for the blessed to acquire additional knowledge.

But obscurity and similar imperfections that now actually belong to the gifts, either of wisdom or counsel, or of other such gifts, do not belong to the state of glory, nor were these defects in Christ.

Thus the gift of wisdom disposed Christ so as to be moved with facility by the Holy Spirit to pass certain judgment on divine things by the highest of causes, in accordance with a connaturalness that is founded on charity for things.

But the gift of understanding attributed to Him correct and immediate penetration of those things that pertain to the kingdom of God.

The gift of counsel likewise attributed to Christ the power of immediately finding out the motive for action.

The gift of knowledge so that even in the consideration of inferior motives, He might judge with absolute certainty about things that happened.

The gift of fortitude expelled from Him the fear of death and its attendant tortures.

Gonet says these conclusions are admitted by all theologians as being certain and beyond dispute.

Index Top




"Obedience is a short cut to perfection."

St Philip Neri

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"If, devout soul, it is your will to please God and live a life of serenity in this world, unite yourself always and in all things to the divine will. Reflect that all the sins of your past wicked life happened because you wandered from the path of God's will. For the future, embrace God's good pleasure and say to him in every happening: "Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in thy sight." "

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"A single act of uniformity with the divine will suffices to make a saint."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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